Archive for forced marriage

One girl, three cows and a donkey

This blog was co-authored with my friend Janan Aljabiri using some of her work in Iraq and part of my thesis. The Fair Observer published it – changing the title to make it more SEO friendly – but since that’s not a consideration here, I’ll keep the original.

Iraq’s decline into chaos has led to the reemergence of compensation marriages to settle disputes between tribes.

The use of marriage as a means of averting blood-feuds and vendetta killings is ancient, found in texts from the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf to the 16th century Sharafnâma. Read more

Forced marriage risk may be related to birth order

Forced marriage may particularly effect elder sisters

I’ve so far not been using this blog to talk much about my ongoing research, but I had a finding yesterday that was so interesting I can’t resist sharing it.

In my Kurdish language survey, I asked respondents to input details of the marriage of themselves and their siblings, and one of the questions established what kind of consent to marriage was expressed, with four options: forced, fully arranged without consultation, arranged with collaboration, and freely chosen. For the purposes of the graph, I’ve combined forced and fully arranged as ‘low consent’ forms. Read more

Still human

Women Seeking Sanctuary Advocacy Group Wales receiving the Emma Humphreys Award.

I have spent the last few weeks working on a report which looks into the problems that asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant women encounter when they are experiencing violence. All women in violent relationships face barriers to exit: they may be financially dependent, they may be psychologically beaten down by continued abuse, they may be worried about the reaction when they leave. But for a minoritised non-citizen, there are many more barriers, and many of these relate to their legal status, and the Kafkaesqu bureaucracies erected around these. Read more


Sisterhood is powerful

Feminist poster from the 1970s

Yesterday, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed were sentenced to life for the murder of their daughter Shafilea after a trial lasting four months. They considered Shafilea too ‘westernised’, particularly when she refused to marry a husband of their choosing. Shafilea was murdered in September 2003, meaning that it has taken almost nine years to achieve justice in this case. Cheshire police are certainly to be commended for their long-term commitment to the investigation particularly given the complexities of investigating HBV, although it remains concerning that Shafilea exhibited several warning signs indicating her risk, none of which were identified at the time. There are lessons here to be learned, as Sara Khan argues in the Guardian, about the continued lack of awareness of the risks of family violence against young people, and young women in particular, at the hands of their parents and other relatives. Read more

The voice of the fire

Woman's face covered by muslin

The voice of the fire tells the truth saying,
I am not fire.
I am fountainhead.
Come into me and don’t mind the sparks. 

(Rumi 1207-1273)

Women’s suicide and self-injury by burns is a growing issue in many South and Central Asian countries as well as the Middle East. These include Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan. The most common method in these areas is for the victim to soak herself in a fuel like kerosene and then strike a match to ignite the fumes, immolating the entire body.

It’s a problem which is particularly pronounced in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq where survival rates are very low, and where Vian Ahmed Khidir Pasha, a member of the Kurdistan National Assembly, told the Kurdish Human Rights Project that there had been 1711 cases of women’s self-injury using burns resulting in 1500 deaths in 2005. Such figures are only increasing, and as most of the women attempting suicide were in their teens and early twenties (tellingly, around the age of first marriage), the youth of those dying, many of them young mothers, is a huge cost to Kurdish society. To put these figures into context: the KRI has a population of less than 5 million, lower than Scotland, where there are less than a thousand suicide deaths per year across the whole population; the KRI is one of the few countries in the world where the female suicide rate may be higher than the male rate. Read more